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What’s all the fuss about the flu?

January 18, 2013

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably seen a lot of coverage lately on television and online news about the flu. We hear so much about it each year that often it’s tempting to brush that information aside.

It’s old news. Doesn’t concern me- I never get sick. The flu isn’t that big of a deal.

It’s tempting to think those things. I know because that’s exactly what I thought, too. That was before- before I was a pharmacist and before I was a mom. But, here’s the deal about the flu- it kills people. Lots of people. Even people like you and me and my children and yours.

If that doesn’t sound convincing, here are some of the hard facts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 children in the U.S. have died from the flu this season, and we haven’t reached the peak of the season yet. Some of those children likely had underlying medical conditions, but 40% of children hospitalized for the flu have no underlying illnesses.

What does that mean? It means that many of these kids were perfectly healthy before they got the flu. No one could have predicted that the same kid who was running around in your backyard yesterday might end up in the hospital tomorrow.

What does it mean for my family?

The flu can be a serious, life-threatening illness. Children under the age of 5 (and especially under the age of 2) along with pregnant women are especially susceptible to developing serious complications if they get sick with the flu. Adults over the age of 65 and those with chronic medical conditions also are at higher risk.

What can I do?

Get vaccinated

Everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine every year (with very few exceptions). If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, it is especially important to get your flu shot to protect yourself and your baby. Since young infants cannot be vaccinated, it is extremely important that caregivers and those within the household are vaccinated to help protect the infant.

For more information on the flu shot, read Dr. Moorjani’s post:

Take common sense precautions

It sounds simple, but frequent hand washing really does work to prevent illness. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently throughout the day. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t accessible.

Avoid contact with those who are sick. People can be contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after they become sick. If a child has had a fever within the past 24 hours, they should stay at home. Be sure that your daycare, playgroups, church groups and other places where children gather communicate and enforce these guidelines for everyone’s safety.

Talk to your doctor immediately if you notice symptoms

If you notice flu symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. You doctor may prescribe some medication that can help make the illness milder and shorten the length of time that you are sick. These medications work best when taken within two days of your first symptoms, so don’t wait!

Some of the symptoms you may experience with the flu:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

It’s just not worth it

The flu is a common illness, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that because it is common that it can’t hurt you. It can have a serious impact, and our children are especially vulnerable. For the same reason that we buckle our kids into a seatbelt and require them to wear helmets when they ride their bicycles, your kids (and you!) should also get a flu shot.

The flu just isn’t worth the risk.

For some more information on the flu, check out Dr. Thomas Kelly’s question and answer session on MYFoxOrlando.com.

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